Thursday, September 29, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 31
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

The Maker's Son in Los Alamos dishes out elevated comfort food in a rustic, nostalgic setting

CALEB WISEBLOOD


Meet your makers
Find out more about The Maker’s Son by calling (805) 344-1926 or visiting themakersson.com. The restaurant is located at 346 Bell St., Los Alamos.

Repurposed from a Roaring ’20s-era gas station, one of Los Alamos’ newest hot spots feels old in all the right ways. 

“The facility just has an authenticity to it,” said Don Conner, one of the operating managers at The Maker’s Son, which opened its doors to the public earlier this summer. “Legitimately, this building is 95-plus years old.”

Formally known as the California Garage, the original gas station was established in 1926 and remained operational through the ’80s, until the property “fell into disrepair and was abandoned for several years,” Conner explained. 


RESTORED AND REPURPOSED
The Maker’s Son, a new restaurant in Los Alamos, sits on the property formerly known as the California Garage, a gas station established in 1926 that remained operational through the ’80s.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MAKER’S SON

Near the end of 2020, the site’s current owners enlisted a team of operators, including Conner, to transform the space (which had already become gradually restored and renovated over the years) into a new restaurant. 

Preserving a sense of reverence and nostalgia for the vintage location’s original function—and commemorating the history of Los Alamos in general—was how The Maker’s Son brand came about.

“We chose that because our focus was really to pay homage to the people who have come before us, building out these communities here on the Central Coast—everybody who is part of developing the community we live in,” said Conner, an area resident for more than a decade. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker—everybody.” 

Outside the new eatery’s front entrance, the California Garage’s retro gas pumps remain standing, alongside a spacious patio for ample outdoor seating, to support the restaurant’s nostalgic charm. People used to come here to fuel their cars, now they come to fuel their stomachs. 


BURGER BLURB
The restaurant’s expansive menu is diverse enough to appease both meat lovers and veggie lovers alike, from The Maker’s Burger (pictured) to vegetarian options like the mushroom trio risotto and grilled watermelon salad.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MAKER’S SON

“It really is just an amazing space, and in an amazing town where you’ve got history next door with the 1880 Union Hotel, and on the other side of us you’ve got an old Victorian mansion, built in the late 1800s,” Conner said, referring to the Yellow Victorian Bed and Breakfast in the latter instance.

Neighborly surroundings and exterior decor aside, homages to the area’s history can be found all throughout the restaurant’s interior as well, including the walls, on many of which you’ll find vintage maps of California dating back to the 1800s. 

While the restaurant’s rustic style and setting celebrate the region’s past, the items found on its menu seem to be looking toward the future. An easy way to sum up the venue’s unique variety of food options is simply to call it comfort food, but never without a twist. Familiar dishes, made from locally sourced meat, fish, and produce, are lovingly infused with experimental, globally inspired flavors.


GETTING TOASTY
“As it gets darker and colder, the fire pits come on, the heaters come on, and this area really just glows, it’s so beautiful,” operating manager Don Conner said. “This is the kind of facility where you just don’t eat and go somewhere else. You come here and you spend your night here.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MAKER’S SON

This approach is evident in every section of the restaurant’s menu, starting with the appetizers. The ahi poke nachos, for example, is anything but your standard nacho fare. This large platter of wonton chips is adorned with sushi-grade ahi tuna, ginger ponzu, cucumber bell pepper relish, and other nontraditional nacho toppings.

These are the kinds of twists chef Matthew Wheeler loved to embrace during the menu’s creation. Some of the menu items were inspired by homemade combinations from his own household, Wheeler said, including the grilled watermelon salad.

“My wife is a big fan of watermelon and feta, so it kind of played off of that. And one of my kids’ favorite ingredients is arugula, so it all just kind of tied together,” Wheeler said of the salad, which also contains pickled red onion, spiced pepitas, aged balsamic, and charred lemon vinaigrette.


DIVINE DESSERT
Even if you’re full by the end of your meal, it’s a shame to leave The Maker’s Son without trying the smoked s’more mousse (pictured), a euphoric grouping of graham cracker crust, whipped chocolate mousse, and Italian meringue, drizzled with bourbon caramel sauce.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MAKER’S SON

The menu’s main courses are equally inventive and diverse enough to appease both meat lovers and veggie lovers alike—from The Maker’s Burger (featuring a half-pound patty of brisket/short rib blend) to the mushroom trio risotto (topped with smoked and marinated king trumpet, cremini, and wood ear mushrooms).

The restaurant’s cocktail selection and dessert lineup follow suit as well. Even if you’re full by the end of your meal, it’s a shame to leave The Maker’s Son without trying the smoked s’more mousse, a euphoric grouping of graham cracker crust, whipped chocolate mousse, and Italian meringue, drizzled with bourbon caramel sauce. 

It’s delicious no matter where you’re sitting at the restaurant, but the campfire s’more vibe can only be amplified out on the cozy patios (front or back) during the evening.

“As it gets darker and colder, the fire pits come on, the heaters come on, and this area really just glows, it’s so beautiful,” Conner said. “This is the kind of facility where you just don’t eat and go somewhere else. You come here and you spend your night here.”

Send your favorite campfire stories to Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood at cwiseblood@santamariasun.com.










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